Fri, Dec 24, 2010

: American Psycho

I just recently wrote about my rewatch of the film version, but I finally did finish the audiobook today. This is definitely an unusual book. It’s not pleasant (you may literally feel like puking), and it is way, way too long. It’s basically one long bit of rambling by a serial killer, talking about his day-to-day life and his really disgusting murders in the same no-nonsense tone. He feels nothing. He’s a psychopath. He’s a lonely, alienated creature trying to fit in by mimicking the behavior of real humans and not quite getting there. The “gimmick” of the book, if you will, is that because he’s wealthy and incredibly good looking, no one believes him capable of murder, even when he practically flaunts it. He walks down the street feeding stray dogs bits of brain of the prostitute he killed. He actually verbally tells girlfriends things like, “I’m feeling very homicidal today,” and they don’t even notice. He quotes serial killers to his friends and even points out women he’d like to rape and kill and they just think he’s being a morbid joker. In other words, this book is a bit of a black comedy. At least that’s how I looked at it and was able to get through it. (If I saw this as a documentary, I’d have to shoot myself and give up hope on the human race as a species.) The comedy is very dark and subtle, but that does lend a certain charm and fascination to the story. For instance, my favorite scene (slight spoiler here) is when he serves his fiance a used urinal cake dipped in chocolate. He watches her struggle to eat it, trying to pretend it tastes good. That scene epitomizes the entire book for me (it was missing in the film, much to my dismay). This is a guy with a sick sense of humor that no one else in his life gets. He’s wanting them to get it, but no one does. That’s his tragedy. In many respects, that’s why this novel is brilliant and it raises the story to literature. There’s also the satire of 1980s Wall Street, obsession with technology, the wealthy, and other aspects American life mocked, but for me the black humor was the key as it actually gets you to sympathize (ever so slightly) with the guy.

In terms of negatives, there are a few. The most significant is the length: the book is very long and much is repetative (endless restaurant meals, descriptions of music and TV shows, boring daily life, etc.). I be you could cut half the scenes out and it would still generate the same feeling. The length does help really hammer home the nails of how messed up this guy is and how utterly pointless his life is, but doesn’t need to be that long as we get the idea quickly. The 80s setting is interesting, but it really dates the novel, especially when the guy keeps bragging about his hot technology and it’s stuff like a six-CD changer or a casette Walkman and his main excuse to get away from people is to claim he has rented videotapes to return! Also, the endless lists of tech, clothing, and other details gets repetative and boring. I realize it does convey the personality of the psycho narrator, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious. Still, despite these issues, the novel succeeds. That’s surprising (and impressive) because on the surface this is a plotless story about a disgusting guy murdering people in brutal and horrible ways. Yet it rises above that low-brow shock value and gives us a convincing and sobering portrayal of an intelligent yet extremely flawed creature. Not pleasant, as I said, and not I book I would ever read again, I think, but definitely fascinating.

Topic: [/book]